Everton vs. Manchester City: 6 Things We Learned
A strange game at Goodison Park on Saturday ended with Manchester City beating Everton 3-2 and taking a huge step toward a second Premier League title in three years.
With plenty of Everton fans inside the ground hoping that their team wouldn't win and do neighbours Liverpool a favour in the title race, Ross Barkley gave them the lead with a fine strike.
The tempo of the hosts' game then noticeably dropped, though, and Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko scored to put City ahead, before Dzeko made it 3-1 with a close-range finish just seconds after Joe Hart had saved well from Steven Naismith.
Romelu Lukaku pulled another one back for the hosts, but City held on for a huge victory.
Here are six lessons learned from the game...
City Have One Hand and Four Fingers on the Title
Manchester City are closing in on a second title in three years, with this win now putting it tantalisingly within their grasp.
Either Liverpool dropping points at Palace on Monday or a City win at home to Villa on Wednesday would put them pretty much there, and the success would be a deserved one for Pellegrini and his men.
Liverpool may have played the more eye-catching football at times over the campaign, but City remain bigger and stronger and more experienced in these situations, heading to the line with the momentum they've worked hard to build up.
Edin Dzeko Should Have a Future at Manchester City
He's seemingly been on the verge of an exit ever since he arrived at the club from Wolfsburg, but just as he did in 2011/12, Edin Dzeko is making crucial contributions to what is looking to be an increasingly likely City title win.
The Bosnian might not have had to work too hard for them, but his two goals were what eventually established the visitors' dominance over an Everton side who went through a spell where they didn't really need much encouragement to be dominated.
His country's first ever World Cup in the summer might prompt renewed transfer talk, but Dzeko is still a crucial player for his side and showed that again here.
The Ross Barkley World Cup Debate Surely Only Has One Answer
One goal doesn't make a player, of course, but Ross Barkley's fine strike in the opening moments of this game at Goodison Park was further evidence that this is an outstanding young player who England simply can't afford ignore in the summer.
Any debate over whether or not he should be included in the World Cup squad should have been rendered null and void a long time ago, and with Roy Hodgson in attendance, the England manager should instead be focusing on just where Barkley fits into his plans, not whether or not he should be a part of them.
The youngster is fearless, and that will be a vital quality for England in the summer.
Joe Hart's Saves May Have Won City the Title
From Steven Naismith at 2-1 and then Gerard Duelofeu at 3-2, Joe Hart twice produced important saves at crucial moments for City in the second half at Goodison Park.
The England goalkeeper has had his wobbles this season, but when his team needed him to be at his best, he responded with two crucial stops to help his side toward the three points.
On such moments league titles can be won and lost—as Steven Gerrard found out last weekend—and this will be a game that the goalkeeper will remember if and when he gets a league winners' medal around his neck.
Sergio Aguero Needs to Solve His Injury Problems
His last act of the match, and perhaps even his season, was to score a crucial goal, but Sergio Aguero will be leaving Merseyside more apprehensive rather than happy.
The latest in what has become a long line of injuries this season may even cast doubt on his World Cup aspirations, but more importantly for City and the player's long-term future, these are problems that need to be solved.
There is a school of thought that suggests City have been guilty of rushing their star man back on more than one occasion this season. They need to take things easily a little more with him, showing more haste and less speed.
Liverpool Must Rely on Aston Villa or West Ham Now
It was always going to be a strange day for both Everton and Liverpool supporters, one which couldn't really be predicted until it was experienced.
There were certainly moments when the hosts put their visitors under pressure, but there was a seeming lack of intensity during other parts of their game that ensured that this wasn't as tough a test for City as it could have been.
Of course, Liverpool only have themselves to blame for getting into a position where they are relying on others to do them a favour, and with attention turning to Aston Villa and West Ham next up for City, those hopes will be fading fast.